Fri, 23 May 2003

Int'l request for govt talks with GAM unfair: Minister

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda criticized the repeated calls by the international community for Jakarta to pursue dialog with separatist group Free Aceh Movement (GAM) as being unfair, saying that the pressure should be directed at the rebels instead.

Retorting to various comments from around the world regarding the imposition of martial law in Aceh, Hassan stressed on Thursday that the government had done enough to settle the issue peacefully.

Speaking before 115 foreign envoys in Jakarta, Hassan said that the Tokyo meeting last weekend, which was a last-ditch attempt to save the peace deal, had failed because GAM refused to accept special autonomy for Aceh under the sovereignty of Indonesia.

"Let there be no misunderstanding that GAM, and GAM alone, single-handedly destroyed the dialog process.

"Thus, to governments that have expressed disappointment at the failure of the dialog process and urged its revival, our advice is that such a call should be best addressed to GAM," he said at the briefing.

World leaders from the United States, Australia, Japan and Malaysia, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, expressed their grave concern over the imposition of martial law in Aceh and urged Jakarta to return to the negotiating table.

Hassan emphasized that, as a sovereign nation, Indonesia had the right to do whatever it took, including a military operation, to defend its territorial integrity.

Moreover, Hassan said, GAM could only speak "the language of force and terror".

"We are confident that governments in this hall would do the same if faced with a similar challenge," he said.

Hassan also pointed out that the decision to launch a military operation had been taken only after a long deliberation in a democratic manner.

"We are ready to challenge any questions regarding our decision to launch the military operation to protect our sovereignty," the minister told the envoys.

Also present at the briefing were Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar and National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chief Hendropriyono.

Among those attending the meeting were U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, British Ambassador Richard Gozney and Japanese Ambassador Yutaka Iimura.

At the meeting, Hassan also demanded that the international community prove their support for Indonesia in deeds, especially Sweden, which has provided asylum for GAM leaders Hasan Tiro and Zaini Abdullah since 1979.

"We have a bundle of proof that these men were involved in many terror activities. We are not asking much from foreign governments, but please be consistent in your support for our territorial integrity," Hassan said.

He claimed that, according to Swedish Ambassador to Indonesia Harald Nils Erik Sanberg, who was at the briefing, the Swedish government would provide an official response to the request as soon as possible.

Susilo said that during the briefing, many countries reiterated their call for dialog to remain an open option, even in the midst of the fresh war in the province.

"Some also asked for the reduction of human suffering during the operation in Aceh," the minister said.